What is LabWrite?

LabWrite is an online resource designed to help students take full advantage of one of the most important activities for learning in the sciences—writing good lab reports. But LabWrite is not just about writing lab reports. It shapes the entire lab experience as a learning experience by structuring each lab into four stages that provide the foundation for the students’ website: PreLab, InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck. We will describe these stages first and then the LabWrite Resources and LabWrite Modes, the application that allows students to work in all the stages online.

PreLab is a set of questions for students to answer before doing each lab. Answering these questions prepares students to get the most out the lab by guiding their understanding of the scientific concept they are supposed to be learning about by doing the lab and by forming the lab as an act of scientific inquiry based on a hypothesis.

InLab is a lab notebook that takes students through the process of collecting, analyzing, and making sense of the data from the lab. Throughout the process, students are provided resources that help them work effectively with data, such as using Excel, identifying dependent and independent variables, making a table for raw data, understanding the kinds of data they have collected, and creating tables and graphs appropriate to the data.

PostLab is a step-by-step guide for writing the lab report. It leads students in using information from their PreLab and InLab responses to write their reports. Students build reports section by section, starting with the ones that they already know the most about, first the Methods and then the Results and working their way to the Abstract and Title. LabWrite’s “inside-out” approach provides students a sensible and logical way of writing the lab report.

LabCheck provides a checklist students can use as a guide for revising their reports before turning them in. Another feature of LabCheck is an evaluation sheet that matches the instructor’s grading sheet. When the graded lab report is returned, students can use the links on their online evaluation guide to find specific help they can use to improve the next report they write.

Resources are a collection of guides tailored to meet students’ specific needs. For example, if they need help in entering data into an Excel spreadsheet, creating a graph, making sure they have the right format for citations and references, or correcting their grammar, they can find the answers they need in a LabWrite resource. Most of the resources are also integrated into each LabWrite stage to provide immediate help as students use either the Self-Guide or Tutor modes. For an overview of all the LabWrite resources, go to the Resources Homepage, accessible from the LabWrite homepage or from any subpage in the student's site.

LabWrite Modes are different approaches students can choose for working in each labWrite stage. Students can choose the mode that best matches their learning style and comfort level—the Self-Guide, Handouts, or Tutor.

  • The Self-Guide provides instructional materials in an html format that allows students to drill deeper to find more detailed instruction as they need it. Students can follow the Self-Guide directions as they work on LabWrite stages in a word processing program.
  • Handouts allow students to print out the questions for PreLab and InLab and work on them in hardcopy. Students can also copy and paste the Handouts into a word processing program and fill them out
  • The Tutor is a unique application that allows students to do their PreLab, InLab, PostLab, and LabCheck online. The Tutor application provides prompts that students can respond to in a text box and the responses are automatically entered into a page that arranges them in the proper order as a first draft of the report. Students can access the same detailed help available to them in the Self-Guide.

The PostLab Tutor is available in two versions. The basic Tutor incorporates the multiple steps that students find in the PostLab Self-Guide. The Brief Tutor allows students to bypass the multiple steps and compose their reports a whole section at a time, with full help available when they need it. The idea is that early in a term students may choose to go step by step through the basic Tutor, but after two or three reports, some students may prefer to use the Brief Tutor.

Check out the Tutor by going to any of the main stages--PreLab, InLab, PostLab--homepage. At present, the Tutor is available only for hypothetical labs. Students can get help for using the Tutor by clicking on the Help button.


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Sponsored and funded by National Science Foundation
(DUE-9950405 and DUE-0231086)

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Rev. RW 5/16/05